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After surgery

Find out how you’ll feel immediately after your surgery and about getting over surgery.

When you wake up

After your operation you usually wake up in the recovery room in theatre. You go back to the ward as soon as you're awake and your temperature, blood pressure, pulse and breathing rate are stable.

You'll feel drowsy for a while because of the anaesthetic and painkillers. 

Your wound

You may or may not have a dressing covering your wound. Some surgeons prefer to leave the wound uncovered so that it can be regularly cleaned with warm sterile water. Your nurse will do this for you. Other surgeons like the wound to be kept covered for a few days. If you do have a dressing, your nurse will change it and clean the wound every few days at least.

You may have to stay in hospital for longer than you originally thought if your wound is healing slowly. Or you may be able to go home and have a district nurse come in to take care of it. You will have to have someone there to help you manage if you do go home.

The stitches are usually soluble, so you don't have to have them taken out. Sometimes they don't dissolve and then do have to be removed. This won't be done until the area has healed - at least 10 days.

Tubes and drains

You may have a drip in place to give you fluids until you are eating and drinking again. You may be given antibiotics through the drip to help prevent any infection in your wound. You should be able to eat and drink as soon as you have got over your anaesthetic and the drip can then come down.

You may have a tube into your bladder (catheter) put in while you are in theatre. Depending on the operation you've had, this may only stay in overnight. Or you may need it in for a longer period of time. The catheter will drain urine from your bladder. You won't have to go to the toilet or use a bedpan and the tube will stop urine from coming into contact with your wound.

If you have had lymph nodes removed from one or both groins, you will probably have a tube called a drain coming out of each groin wound. This is to drain fluid that collects in the area and help to prevent swelling and infection. These drains will have to stay in until no more fluid is coming out. The time this takes varies and the drain may stay in for up to 14 days.

Painkillers

It’s normal to have pain for the first week or so. Your doctor and nurses give you painkillers.  

Tell your doctor or nurse as soon as you feel any pain. They need your help to find the right type and dose of painkiller for you. Painkillers work best when you take them regularly.

Immediately after surgery you might have painkillers through a drip into the bloodstream that you control. This is called patient controlled analgesia (PCA).

Or you might have painkillers through a small thin tube that is put into your back. This tube is connected to a pump that gives you a constant dose of painkiller. This is called an epidural.

You get painkillers to take home. Follow the instructions your nurse gives you about how often and when to take them. Contact your nurse or doctor if you still have pain or if it gets worse.

Eating and drinking

You may have a drip in place to give you fluids until you are eating and drinking again. You should be able to eat and drink as soon as you have got over your anaesthetic. The drip can come down once you are eating and drinking again.

Getting over surgery

You should get over a small operation quite quickly.

It will take longer to recover after a bigger operation. You should allow at least 6 weeks to get over it. Do bear in mind, though, that it takes longer than that for some women to recover. If it is taking you a while, you aren't doing anything wrong. Some people just heal more quickly than others. Talk to your surgeon or nurse specialist at your 6 week follow up appointment if you are at all concerned.

This is an awkward place to have surgery. You will find moving around difficult at first. It is a good idea not to walk too much for the first few weeks, as this will put a strain on the healing wound and can be painful. Keep doing the leg exercises you learned while you were in hospital to help prevent blood clots.

Keeping comfortable

You may find it better to lie propped up on your side, rather than try to sit. An air cushion can make sitting more comfortable. You should try to only sit on your wound for short periods of time. 

To keep the area clean and as comfortable as possible, you could try:

  • having short warm baths as often as you like - don't put any perfumed bath products, soap, creams, lotions or talc on the wound area
  • rinsing your vulval area after passing urine by pouring a jug of warm water over while you are sitting on the toilet
  • Using a hairdryer on a cold or cool setting to dry the area instead of a towel
  • Taking a stool softener, such as lactulose, to make sure you don't get constipated

Your wound will probably heal without any other problems. But if you develop oozing, a discharge that smells, heavy bleeding or have increasing pain, contact your doctor straight away. You may have an infection and need antibiotics.

Find out about possible problems after surgery

There is a risk of problems or complications after any operation. Many problems are minor. It is important that you let your doctor know of any problems as soon as possible so you can get the treatment you need.

Follow up appointments

You'll have regular appointments to check on how you are recovering. This is your opportunity to ask any questions about your recovery and get help if you have any problems or concerns. 

Information and help

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